A young boy wearing goggles and a Batman hoodie leans out of a gray shopping cart at QFC on a rainy Seattle day, points a finger towards a stranger and pleads, “Look, Daddy! Look at her hair! It’s two colors!”
The boy’s embarrassed father laughs and shares a knowing smile with 22-year old Grace Lyman, the object of the boy’s frenzy. In a curtsy-like motion she displays both sides of her waist-length hair to the boy: the platinum blonde on the right followed by the ink black on the left. The boy continues staring as Grace smiles; her green eyes set off by thick liquid black eyeliner, her mouth endearingly crooked. She chuckles with her friends, an eighteen pack of Rainier cans swinging by her side as she heads to the registers, military boots clicking along the way.
Grace’s hairstyle is inspired by 101 Dalmatians icon Cruella DeVille, who Grace describes as an “OG bad bitch”—someone that does what they want and doesn’t care what others may think. It’s a bold look, and certainly not one seen often in her hometown of Dayton, Washington.
Dayton is a small farming town on the eastern side of the state, with a population of just over 2,500 people. Fashion there is confined mainly to Wranglers, ratty t-shirts and ‘trendy’ mall clothes from stores like Aeropostale (although Dayton itself has no clothing stores; the closest place to shop is the Macy’s in Walla Walla). It’s a sleepy town with no real connections to big cities. So how did Grace develop such a strong sense of style in a town so void of fashion?
Her mother Karen is her biggest fashion inspiration. The 57 year-old religiously reads fashion magazines and is months ahead of everyone when it comes to trends in style. Her personal wardrobe is constantly updated and edited.
Green eyes aren’t the only thing Karen Lyman passed on to her daughter—the two share a love of shopping both in-store and online, and of putting outfits together from scratch. In her first few years away at college, Grace would send pictures of her outfits to her mom before she went to class to get any last fashion advice.
Roommate Sean Wilson agrees Grace’s sense of fashion is one of a kind and says one thing she does really well is turning things “no one could wear” into chic pieces. Wilson recalls a time when Grace, pondering her massive shoe collection, asked aloud, “Do I really need two pairs of wooden heeled snake skin pumps? …Probably.”
Which brings us to shoes. If Grace’s hair screams individuality, her shoes echo the sentiment, “I wear (and do) what I want!” The hall closet in the home Grace shares with seven others in the sleepy Ravenna neighborhood is filled entirely with her shoes. In tubs, in their original boxes, in neat rows, in piles: shoes on shoes on shoes. Mainly shoes with height: high heels or wedges. The shoes range from feminine to fierce to vintage-chic. She likes Doc Martens (a Seattle-based shoe brand whose logo is ‘Individual style, united spirit’) and Jeffrey Campbell (a California brand that melds street, vintage and runway styles). One of her pairs of big platform shoes cost more than $200. They were a recent gift from her mom, who knew Grace had been eying that style for a while.
Sean was right; Grace can pull off a wider range of style than the average person. One look at these shoes in their shiny box (kept in pristine condition by the fashionista) and even a confident clothes-wearer would sweat a little bit. The shoes have impossibly high heels adorned with aggressive spikes and studs. They are glitzy and gritty and beautiful, and make the wearer three inches taller. Grace slips them on as if they were ballet flats.
In a closet “walk through,” Grace agreed to throw together some of her favorite looks (though she said she will rarely repeat the same outfit twice.) Her shiny black “wet-look” pants glisten in the soft overhead light, and a boy’s blue long-sleeve button up layered under a creamy black sweater completes the look. Within minutes, Grace has thrown together a seamless outfit.
Next look: a burgundy Peter Pan collar peeking out of a soft, textured eggshell sweater paired with a faux-leather mid-thigh skirt below. This girl knows how to play with proportions- an important element in styling.
Many of the items she throws on have been thrifted (Goodwill being one of her favorite stores), and others have been handcrafted through various DIY adventures. Grace has transformed a pair of her dad’s old jeans into high fashion, high-waisted shorts embellished with studs. The creativity shown by this transformation is rad. Nothing is more enviable in fashion than a one-of-a-kind item with emotional or sentimental value etched in.
If there’s anything Grace stays away from in her choice of fashion, it’s being plain. She describes the “typical sorority girl outfit” as the death of fashion: Uggs, some form of yoga pants and a Greek system-related sweatshirt or Northface jacket. Not being able to put together an outfit by yourself is inexcusable, she said. What’s best is wearing something not because everybody else is wearing it but because you think it’s cool.
Grace’s DIY style is inspiring, bold, and enchanting. The little boy at QFC was perhaps the only one so brave enough as to say, “look!” at her style, but it won’t be the last attention thrown her way for her edgy and playful fashion.